Tag: COVID-19

‘Garbage’ and ‘cash cows’: temporary migrants describe anguish of exclusion and racism during COVID-19

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By Bassina Farbenblum* & Laurie Berg**

In early April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a clear message to temporary visa holders that if they were no longer financially solvent to ride out the pandemic, they were not welcome in Australia.

As much as it’s lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, it is time […] to make your way home.

As our new research published today shows, this statement fuelled feelings of abandonment and worthlessness among temporary visa holders who have been left out of the government’s economic support schemes during the COVID-19 crisis.

In our survey of more than 6,100 temporary visa holders (including international students, backpackers and holiday workers), many used stark, dehumanising language to describe how they’ve felt since the pandemic began in Australia six months ago:

like we do not exist

aliens who don’t belong here

inanimate objects

discarded, unimportant, and expendable

garbage

dirt.

Others recounted harrowing experiences of racist attacks — being punched, kicked, shoved and deliberately spat at or coughed on by passers-by — as well as a range of xenophobic slurs.

For many of our respondents, this has destroyed their sense of belonging in Australia and fundamentally changed their perceptions of the country and its leaders.

‘ATMs of the Australian government’

Our earlier research, and that of other scholars, has documented how temporary visa holders have suffered financially during the crisis.

These visa holders include international students, backpackers, graduates, sponsored workers and refugees. Many work in casualised industries, such as hospitality and retail, lost their jobs and struggled to meet basic living expenses.

There are more than one million temporary visa holders in Australia — who may comprise up to 10% of Australia’s workforce — but they have been excluded from the federal JobKeeper and JobSeeker support schemes.

In our latest survey, thousands of respondents voiced their distress and anger at the government’s lack of support during lockdown. Many felt their only value to Australia was as a revenue stream, since they worked here and paid taxes or spent considerable sums to study at universities.

A striking number used words such as “cash cows”, “money-making plants”, “ATMs of the Australian government” and “walking moneybags”.

Many felt callously used for their cheap labour. A Russian master’s student said:

We paid taxes. We did all dirty work Australians don’t want to do and what about us? […] It is nice to have invisible cheap workers that will be silently committing to work when you and your family can stay at home or work from home and get government support and don’t lose any money.

International students, in particular, have been encouraged by the government and universities to invest heavily in Australia — often spending their life savings — to set up new lives here. Many stay for at least five years — a three-year bachelor’s degree followed by a two-year temporary graduate visa.

As one French graduate visa holder put it:

some of us have been here for years and consider Australia like our home now. Quitting everything we have done and been through is just unimaginable.

Racist slurs and taunts

For some, their experiences have gone beyond social exclusion to overt racism. Almost a quarter of our respondents said they had been subjected to racist verbal abuse since the pandemic began in March. And a quarter said people avoided them because of their appearance.

More than half (52%) of Chinese respondents reported experiencing at least one of these forms of racism, as did more than 40% of those from other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

We also received more than 1,600 personal accounts of targeted xenophobic slurs, such as people saying “coronavirus”, “Chinese virus”, “Asian virus” or worse to them in public or at work.

One Chinese woman noted:

a stranger shouted in my face that I am the virus in the supermarket.

Another international student observed this kind of harassment

is a regular thing for Asian people in Australia.

In an echo of the prime minister’s words, many respondents from a range of nationalities reported being told to “get out of Australia”.

As one Colombian student put it,

I received many comments from Australian[s] telling me leave the country, go back your home, ask you[r] family for money, respect the Australian people.

An Indian student recalled being told

to go back to my country by random strangers on the street while working as an Uber Eats delivery man.

Abandoning people in their time of need

Clearly, the impact of the exclusion felt by these temporary visa holders will far outlast the pandemic.

The government’s failure to support these vulnerable people has the potential to profoundly impact Australia’s global reputation. The country’s education and tourism sectors will also likely suffer the economic consequences for years to come.

Of the students and working holiday makers in our survey, 60% indicated they are now less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place to study or work.

This includes international students from important education markets like China and Nepal (76% and 69% less likely to recommend Australia, respectively).

Our survey reveals the financial situation of many respondents is rapidly worsening, with more than a third of international students indicating they will run out of funds by next month.

The government must use the October budget to rectify the exclusion of temporary migrants from social support measures.

If it is not compelled to act for ethical or diplomatic reasons, it should at least listen to the observations of one survey respondent. This is emblematic of the sentiments expressed by thousands more:

Australia showed its true colours when it came to international students. They call us friends but then abandon us in our time of need. I think Australia will struggle to attract international students after the disgraceful treatment and lack of compassion shown during COVID.

* Associate professor, UNSW
** Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney

Source- The Conversation, Sept 17, 2020 (Under Creative Commons Licence)

2 million babies stillborn worldwide: joint UN estimates

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Aruna Patel (28) giving KMC to the new born child. Mothers of newborns are trained and educated on the benefits of KMC by hospital staff. Location: Baria District Hospital, Baria, Gujarat, July 2020. Photo- Vinay Panjwani, UNICEF.

One stillbirth occurs every 16 seconds, according to first-ever joint UN estimates. COVID-19-related health service disruptions could worsen the situation, potentially adding nearly 200,000 more stillbirths over a 12-month period.

NEW YORK/ GENEVA, 8 October 2020– Almost 2 million babies are stillborn every year – or 1 every 16 seconds – according to the first-ever joint stillbirth estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group, and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The vast majority of stillbirths, 84 percent, occur in low- and lower-middle-income countries, according to the new report, A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths. In 2019, 3 in 4 stillbirths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa or Southern Asia. A stillbirth is defined in the report as a baby born with no signs of life at 28 weeks of pregnancy or more.

“Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Every 16 seconds, a mother somewhere will suffer the unspeakable tragedy of stillbirth. Beyond the loss of life, the psychological and financial costs for women, families, and societies are severe and long-lasting. For many of these mothers, it simply didn’t have to be this way. A majority of stillbirths could have been prevented with high-quality monitoring, proper antenatal care, and a skilled birth attendant.”

The report warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen the global number of stillbirths. A 50 percent reduction in health services due to the pandemic could cause nearly 200,000 additional stillbirths over a 12-month period in 117 low- and middle-income countries. This corresponds to an increase in the number of stillbirths by 11.1 percent. According to modeling done for the report by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 13 countries could see a 20 percent increase or more in the number of stillbirths over a 12-month period.

Most stillbirths are due to poor quality of care during pregnancy and birth. Lack of investments in antenatal and intrapartum services and in strengthening the nursing and midwifery workforce are key challenges, the report says.

Over 40 percent of stillbirths occur during labor—a loss that could be avoided with access to a trained health worker at childbirth and timely emergency obstetric care. Around half of the stillbirths in sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia occur during labor, compared to 6 percent in Europe, Northern America, Australia, and New Zealand.

Even before the pandemic caused critical disruptions in health services, few women in low- and middle-income countries received timely and high-quality care to prevent stillbirths. Half of the 117 countries analyzed in the report have coverage that ranges from a low of less than 2 percent to a high of only 50 percent for 8 important maternal health interventions such as C-section, malaria prevention, management of hypertension in pregnancy, and syphilis detection and treatment. Coverage for assisted vaginal delivery – a critical intervention for preventing stillbirths during labor – is estimated to reach less than half of pregnant women who need it.

As a result, despite advances in health services to prevent or treat causes of child death, progress in lowering the stillbirth rate has been slow. From 2000 to 2019, the annual rate of reduction in the stillbirth rate was just 2.3 percent, compared to a 2.9 percent reduction in neonatal mortality, and 4.3 percent in mortality among children aged 1–59 months. Progress, however, is possible with sound policy, programs, and investment.

“Welcoming a baby into the world should be a time of great joy, but every day thousands of parents experience unbearable sadness because their babies are stillborn,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The tragedy of stillbirth shows how vital it is to reinforce and maintain essential health services, and how critical it is to increase investment in nurses and midwives.”

The report also notes that stillbirth is not only a challenge for poor countries. In 2019, 39 high-income countries had a higher number of stillbirths than neonatal deaths and 15 countries had a higher number of stillbirths than infant deaths. A mother’s level of education is one of the greatest drivers of inequity in high-income countries.

In both low- and high-income settings, stillbirth rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Socioeconomic status is also linked to a greater incidence of stillbirth. For example, in Nepal, women of minority castes had stillbirth rates between 40 to 60 percent higher than women from upper-class castes.

Ethnic minorities in high-income countries, in particular, may lack access to enough quality health care. The report cites that Inuit populations in Canada, for example, have been observed to have stillbirth rates nearly three times higher than the rest of Canada, and African American women in the United States of America have nearly twice the risk of stillbirth compared to white women.

“COVID-19 has triggered a devastating secondary health crisis for women, children, and adolescents due to disruptions in life-saving health services,” said Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents. “Pregnant women need continued access to quality care, throughout their pregnancy and during childbirth. We are supporting countries in strengthening their health systems to prevent stillbirths and ensure that every pregnant woman can access quality health care services.”

Source- WHO,7 October 2020.

Ensuring healthcare access to non English including Hindi speaking patients

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By SAT News Desk/Medianet

MELBOURNE, 14 August 2020: One consequence of the COVID-19 crisis has been many non-English speaking people neglecting their other health concerns. The pandemic has made many not to go to their GP’s fearing the virus. It comes following GP concerns about CALD patients avoiding medical care due to fear of the COVID-19 virus, while also bearing the brunt of the pandemic, including increased mental health symptoms, isolation, and loneliness.

To counter this The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is helping culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients, including those who speak Hindi, access care from a GP during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The RACGP’s Expert Advice Matters campaign is encouraging CALD patients to keep looking after their heath during the COVID-19 pandemic and consult their GP for any health concerns.

A website for patients has been translated into the most commonly spoken languages other than English, including Hindi, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese. The websites include practical information for patients on how they can safely access care from a GP, including telehealth and telephone consultations featuring free interpreters. You can view the website in Hindi here: https://www.expertadvicematters.com.au/hindi/

GPs are helping to spread the message by sharing videos of themselves speaking in different languages, urging patients not to delay routine healthcare, and explaining how they can safely consult with their GP. You can find the videos on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKg37k2DuVFPDvTWVer3SyZBK31R80BvE

In the latest 2016 Census found India was the second most common country of birth for people in Australia, where English is the main language. More than 455,389 people reporting their birth country as India or 1.9% of the population.

RACGP spokesperson Dr. Lara Roeske says more is needed to be done to reach CALD patients missing out on healthcare.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, CALD communities in Australia already faced health inequalities and barriers to accessing healthcare including language and health literacy issues.”

Evidence suggests migrants, particularly those newly arrived, use health services less. The National Health Survey found that of those arriving in Australia between 2009 and 2015, 74%had visited a GP in the last 12 months, compared to the Australian-born population total of 86 percent.

Dr. Roeske said the pandemic had magnified the problems.

“The pandemic has only made matters worse – many patients are avoiding seeing their GP because they’re afraid of the virus and don’t know about or feel comfortable using telehealth.

“With all the rapidly changing health information and changes to the way patients can access care, it’s not surprising that some don’t know how they can safely access healthcare and are putting off important appointments. We need to fix this now.

“I’m very concerned that patients delaying care could face worse problems down the track. Particularly given some CALD communities have higher rates of chronic disease and need regular routine health checks to stay well.

“This is why it’s so important that we get the message to CALD communities that you need to keep taking care of your health during the pandemic, and there are safe ways to get the expert care you need.

“We need to do better to communicate to CALD patients and provide information that’s translated and culturally appropriate. The extension of the RACGP’s Expert Advice Matter’s campaign to CALD communities aims to do just that.

“My advice for patients is this: if you’ve delayed an appointment or have a new health concern, don’t wait any longer – your GP is here to help, book an appointment today.”

7 Tips for Safer Healthcare recommended by the RACGP:

· don’t delay healthcare, call your GP for any concerns

· you can consult your GP on the phone or via video technology. Telehealth appointments are bulk billed for concession card holders, under 16s and vulnerable patients.

· if you need an interpreter, call the Australian Government’s FREE Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS) Ph 131450.

· you can get a prescription from your GP on the phone or video and collect the medicine from a pharmacy

· it’s safe to visit your GP in person if you need to – clinics have made changes to protect you from COVID-19 including physical distancing and regular sanitization.

· patients in Victoria must wear a face mask or covering when visiting their GP. Patients living in other areas with community transmission are also advised to wear a mask when visiting the GP

· if you have COVID-19 symptoms (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, fever or chills or loss of smell or taste) get tested right away and self-isolate until you get the results.

Coronavirus digest: COVID-19 shows ‘no seasonal pattern,’ warns WHO

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WHO Director-General Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressing a media conference in Geneva. PHOTO- SAT

There had been high hopes that the summer heat would slow the pace of transmission. This is not the case, according to the World Health Organization which made an appeal to governments. Catch up on the latest.

The novel virus “has demonstrated no seasonal pattern as such,” said a top official from the World Health Organization on Monday, warning health authorities to keep fighting it.

“What it has clearly demonstrated is that if you take the pressure off the virus, the virus bounces back,” said Dr. Michael Ryan at a press briefing.

The coronavirus pandemic is continuing to accelerate despite the arrival of warmer weather in some countries.

Scientists and politicians had earlier predicted that the virus would fade in the summer before picking up the pace again in the winter — similar to other respiratory viruses such as influenza.

Several countries, particularly in Europe, had started easing restrictions in a bid to get economies up and running over the summer. Lockdowns had previously appeared to be curbing the outbreaks.

Countries where COVID-19 appears to be under control — such as those in Europe — still need to maintain measures to slow virus spread, said Ryan.

Ryan called for countries where transmission remains intense, such as Brazil, to adopt measures so that communities have the necessary support they need to implement strategies like social distancing, wearing masks, and self-isolating if they have symptoms.

Asia

Thailand plans to allow at least 3,000 foreign teachers to enter the country while keeping out tourists and tightly restricting other arrivals to guard against new coronavirus infections.

Those who have registered to return include teachers returning to their jobs after leaving during the pandemic, as well as newly employed teachers, Attapon Truektrong, secretary-general of the Private Education Commission, said on Monday.

The teachers, who come from countries including the Philippines, New Zealand, the United States and Britain, will have to be quarantined for 14 days after arrival. Thailand largely barred scheduled passenger flights from abroad in early April.

Thailand hosts many international schools and there is a general shortage of qualified teachers of English and other non-Thai languages.

In India, cases are continuing to surge. The Health Ministry says the total number of fatalities reached 44,386 on Monday after a record 1,007 people died in the past 24 hours. Infections also surged by over 62,000 cases.

India has recorded more than 60,000 cases of the virus daily in the last four days and more infections than any other country in the world for six consecutive days. It has averaged around 50,000 new cases a day since mid-June. Infections in India remain concentrated in 10 states that contribute nearly 80% of the new cases.

Americas

Indigenous people in Peru were involved in a clash with local police following an assault on an oil company settlement in the Amazon, the government said on Sunday.

Around 70 indigenous people attempted to overrun the settlement at the remote town of Bretana in the Loreto region to voice their displeasure over government apathy towards native communities during the coronavirus pandemic and frequent oil spills. 

Three native community members were killed and multiple people — six police officers and 11 indigenous people — were injured.

The Republic of El Salvador will hand out immunity passports to people who have recovered from COVID-19, President Nayib Bukele announced on television late on Sunday.

Those issued with a certificate can then be employed by the government to distribute medical kits and food aid to households affected by the pandemic. It will also give them social privileges not enjoyed by the rest of the population.

Oceania

Australia reported 19 new coronavirus deaths on Monday, but the state of Victoria, which is the epicenter of the country’s second wave of the virus, saw a decrease in the number of confirmed infections.

Victoria reported 322 new confirmed infections in the last 24 hours, marking a two-week low, officials said. However, state premier Daniel Andrews has said that one cannot read too much into a single day’s data. 

Other states still haven’t posted their daily totals but the 19 deaths reported in Victoria over the past 24 hours already mark the country’s highest single-day rise in fatalities.

Europe

This weekend temperatures exceeded 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts of Germany. With many Germans on summer holiday and some foreign travel restrictions still in place, authorities feared that people heading to lakes would not respect social distancing. 

However, crowds at Germany’s lakes were somewhat smaller than expected.

German firms expect public life to be restricted for another 8.5 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a survey. Companies in hardest-hit sectors, such as the leisure industry, are most pessimistic about life returning to normal.

In France, authorities made face masks wearing mandatory in crowded areas and tourist hotspots as coronavirus infections once again surge in the region.

Masks will be obligatory for all those aged 11 and over “in certain very crowded zones,” according to a police statement.

The zones include the banks of the Seine River and more than one hundred streets in the French capital, including tourist destinations like Montmartre, where the Sacre Coeur basilica is located.

A group of migrants who sailed from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos last week arrived with the coronavirus, said authorities on the island capital Mytilene, sparking fears of a mass outbreak at the overcrowded migrant camps.

Of the 38 people in the group, 17 tested positive and displayed symptoms of COVID-19. They will remain in isolation for two weeks in the Kara Tepe camp before being re-tested.

Greek authorities are quarantining all migrants who arrive on the island as a precaution against the epidemic.

The EU’s health agency has urged countries seeing an increase in cases of COVID-19 to reinstate some curbs, warning of a resurgence of cases in parts of Europe.

Source- dw.com
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VIDEO: Revert to full employment to overcome neoliberalism and COVID-19 jobs crisis

Economist Robert Pollin advocates a macroeconomic agenda centered on full employment to deal with the rapidly unfolding jobs crisis.

By Newsclick

Economist Robert Pollin advocates a macroeconomic agenda centered on full employment to deal with the rapidly unfolding jobs crisis. The decades-long neoliberal attack on the working class has heightened with COVID-19. He says that the world needs a New Deal to counter levels of unemployment and inequality, which were last seen during the Great Depression.
Source- Newsclick, 30 June, 2020.